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The Voyages of de Villehardouin - Cruising French Waterways

Valerie Helps

Not many in late middle age realise their dream of living on a canal boat and exploring the waterways of France. Even fewer anticipate the problems that might confront them on their adventure into ‘the unknown'.

Valerie and Geoffrey buy their boat which they christen "de Villehardouin" and set off on the Canal du Midi, drawing and writing about their journey as they meander along the two hundred year old canal.

They revel in the slow pace as they enter a world of welcoming ports, canalside markets, ancient sites and chateaux, delicate wildflowers and, in the Camargue, medieval jousting and pink flamingos. The various regional cuisines introduce them to gastronomic delights and memorable wines.

Tackling the mighty Rhône River with its awesome deep locks in their small boat presents a challenge. Valerie and Geoffrey accept this with their usual humour. Once the Rhône is conquered, they find time to enjoy the ever-changing scenery of the canals as the dream unfolds.

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Valerie Helps was born in London and grew up in East Africa. Widely travelled, she has lived in Australia, Greece and France, where she established herself as a successful travel writer and illustrator.

Valerie's first book, Freckles the Fawn, was written when she was eighteen. In Australia, she established Valerie's Page, a popular children's page in a major Sunday newspaper, with stories inspired by her children and her African background. Seven of these featured in her television series.

Her short stories, poetry and children's books have been published in journals and newspapers worldwide.

During the eighties, Valerie worked with Youth Orchestras and as Orchestra Manager in the Sydney Opera House. When she needed something "completely different", she moved to Crete to lease out holiday villas and later left for France with Geoffrey, her new partner, to spend the summers on their canal boat ‘de Villehardouin'. She now lives in Sydney.